THE 4th Sunday of Lent is usually dubbed as “Laetare Sunday” for the simple reason that its Entrance Antiphon starts with this passage from the Book of Isaiah (66,10), “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breast.”

Indeed, we have every reason to rejoice even in this season of Lent, marked as it is by calls to penance, fasting and abstinence, because in the end we are assured of victory over sin and death itself due to the redemptive work of Christ.

We should not lose sight of this truth of faith and neither should we lose our Christian confidence even as we cannot avoid going through the rigors of all the penitential acts encouraged of us these days.

In fact, only in this way would we be most generous in joining Christ in his suffering, convinced that it is through this suffering that we can also partake of his victory over sin and death which should give us a great joy, since it can only mean total liberation from what is not proper for us. It is through this suffering that we recover our true dignity as children of God, sharers of his divine life and nature.

We have to learn to capture the intimate link between suffering and joy by meditating deeply on the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. If we would finally understand the reason why Christ had to suffer and die, then we would know why our suffering and eventual death, if we go through them with Christ, would give us great joy.

Not only would we lose our fear for any suffering in our life, but also would we look forward to any suffering that can come our way. That’s because we would be convinced that precisely our suffering and death with and in Christ would constitute as our supreme act of love, a love that is a vital participation of the love of Christ for us. It’s this kind of love, the only true love, that would give us true and everlasting joy.

Somehow this piece of divine wisdom which, if considered only by our human estimation of things, would appear to us to be unacceptable, is played out in the gospel of the day. (cfr. Jn 3,14-21) There, we are assured that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

We have to understand then that only with Christ can we find joy in suffering. We need to process this truth of our faith thoroughly, always asking for God’s grace and training all our powers and faculties to adapt to this reality. That’s why Christ told us clearly that if we want to follow him, we simply have to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him. There’s no other formula, given our wounded human condition.

Our reaction to any form of suffering in this life should therefore be theological and ascetical. It should be guided and inspired by faith. It should not just be physical or a natural affair. It should reflect the spiritual and supernatural realities to which we are all subject.

Everyday let us find ways of deepening our understanding and appreciation of this truth of our faith, and also of acquiring the capacity to live it as fully as possible, until we can truly say that we are finding joy in our suffering.